If your business operates in multiple locations, then you need network infrastructure to connect each office. Since geographical distance can affect the performance of data sent through the network, it’s necessary to pick the right way to connect each location. The two most popular connectivity options currently available are software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) and multiprotocol label switching (MPLS). But what are SD-WAN and MPLS and which solution is best for your company?
SD-WAN vs MPLS
Have you ever ordered lunch on a food delivery application? If you track the progress of your order, you can see the route the driver takes to get to your destination. In some cases, you may notice the driver going off course or making strange route decisions before they reach your office. This is similar to the way internet protocol (IP) routing works.
An internet router’s job is to send data packets to their destination. This requires the router to send the information along a path of other routers until the packet reaches the finish line. However, data packets only contain information on where it’s meant to be sent to, not on how to get there. As a result, the router has to decide where to forward that data packet, which may not be the most straightforward path to your office.
Think of the router as the driver in the earlier example and your food as the data packet. It’s up to the driver to figure out how to get to your office. MPLS solves this problem by creating labels for data packets that predetermine a highly efficient path. This creates less latency and better data performance, especially for real-time applications that use video or audio.
MPLS has been around since the ’90s—SD-WAN takes a newer approach to transferring data. Unlike MPLS, SD-WAN separates network control and management from the hardware and makes it available on software. This solution monitors all of your connections and automatically redirects data to a connection with more bandwidth. As a result, bottlenecks are avoided and better performance is secured.
The Pros and Cons of SD-WAN and MPLS
MPLS gives your network the ability to handle certain types of data packets in a consistent way. For example, data that requires low latency are always mapped to low latency channels. Additionally, MPLS is a private network, so this solution is considered reliable and secure. However, MPLS is complex, time-consuming to manage, and costly to upgrade and scale.
SD-WAN is more of an evolution of MPLS technology. This solution manages multiple types of connections, including MPLS. SD-WAN benefits include better flexibility and agility, improved user experience, and lower maintenance costs. It’s not a perfect solution, though, as SD-WAN can be complex and lacks native integrated security.
What’s the Final Verdict?
Finding the best fit for your organization depends on a variety of variables, including distance between offices, budget, compliance requirements, and more. SD-WAN and MPLS are both made to provide reliable, high-performance, and confidential network connectivity. While both can be effective, SD-WAN is the superior option in terms of cost and scalability.
MPLS may be the better option if your business requires a high degree of integrity and privacy. However, it’s important to remember that MPLS is available on SD-WAN. Any information that needs to remain confidential can be run on an MPLS connection using SD-WAN.
In the end, times are changing and an increasing number of businesses are relying on software as a service (SaaS). Backhauling traffic, like MPLS does, causes unwanted latency and can affect application performance. SD-WAN simplifies WAN connections, resulting in more efficient bandwidth usage. In most cases, you will want to choose SD-WAN.
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